MIDDLESBROUGH will not allow goalkeeper Darren Randolph to leave on the cheap next month amid interest from his former club West Ham United.

The Hammers have earmarked the Republic of Ireland No 1 as a main contender to take back to East London after a difficult campaign between the posts following an injury picked up by Lukasz Fabianski in September.

Summer signing Roberto Jimenez lost his place after some poor performances and now third-choice David Martin is playing more regularly in the Premier League.

But West Ham are considering their options on that front and are aware of Randolph’s quality and the possibility that he could be sold at the Riverside Stadium if the price is right.

The 32-year-old harbours hopes of a return to the top-flight and had attracted interest from West Ham last summer, as well as Stoke City when they were expecting to sell Jack Butland following relegation to the Championship.

But Randolph remained on Teesside where he is under contract until 2021 with the terms he agreed when he moved from West Ham in 2017.

The former Birmingham City keeper is widely perceived to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Football League, having been awarded that title last season by the PFA and the EFL.

This season has been more difficult for him and injuries have prevented him from playing since November 24, and before that he had not figured for just shy of a month after West Brom won at the Riverside on October 9.

Relatively inexperienced academy graduate Aynsley Pears has had the shirt in his absence and has tended to do well, keeping four clean sheets from his seven appearances so far to raise hope of a bright future.

Randolph’s experience and quality, though, is something that Middlesbrough are not in a rush to lose. The reality is that head coach Jonathan Woodgate and the financial decision makers at the club would consider offers if it suited the club.

Middlesbrough are well aware that Randolph can play at a higher level and his thinking will also be important ahead of a January when Woodgate hopes to strengthen his squad with little money to spend. He is believed to be targeting numerous loan deals as things stand.

Randolph is unlikely to want to go back to West Ham just to play back-up to Fabianski, which was the main reason why he decided to drop down to the Championship to join Middlesbrough in the first place.

Pears will be in goal again at Swansea City on Saturday because Randolph remains sidelined. He is not due to return to training for another three weeks and that is likely to coincide with the transfer window opening.

Middlesbrough have had to deal with plenty of problems on the injury list this season but there has been improvements on that front of late. It is hoped midfielder Lewis Wing will be available again for the trip to South Wales after missing the last two games.

Striker Rudy Gestede could also travel but if he did then he is only likely to warm the bench. The former Aston Villa striker would be a boost to have available again given the lack of options in attack.

Britt Assombalonga is unlikely to figure again because of his lower leg injury so Stephen Walker and Tyrone O’Neill are the alternative strikers to partner Ashley Fletcher if Woodgate wants to play with two in attack.

Gestede is scheduled to play another Under-23s game on Monday against Stoke to build up his fitness after coming through another outing earlier in the week unscathed. He has not played since October 4 when he came off the bench late at Birmingham to set up a goal.